I know that many people on LessWrong want nothing to do with "neoreaction." It does seem strange that a website commonly associated with techno-futurism, such as LessWrong, would end up with even the most tangential networked association with an intellectual current, such as neoreaction, that commonly includes nostalgia for absolute monarchies and other avatistic obessions.
Perhaps blame it on Yvain, AKA Scott Alexander of slatestarcodex.com for attaching this strange intellectual node to LessWrong. ; ) That's at least how I found out about neoreaction, and I doubt that I am alone in this.
Certainly many on LessWrong would view any association with "neoreaction" as a Greek gift to be avoided. I understand the concept of keeping "well-kept gardens" and of politics being the "mind-killer," although some at LessWrong have argued that some of the most important questions humanity will face in the next decades will be questions that are unavoidably "political" in nature. Yes, "politics is hard mode," but so is life itself, and you don't get better at hard mode without practicing in hard mode.
LessWrong proclaims itself as a community devoted to refining the art of rationality. One aspect of the art of rationality is locating the true sources of disagreement between two parties who want to communicate with each other, but who can't help but talk past each other in different languages due to having radically different pre-existing assumptions.
I believe that this is the problem that any discourse between neoreaction and progressivism currently faces.
Even if you have no interest at all in neoreaction or progressivism as ideologies, I invite you to read this analysis as a case study in locating sources of disagreement between ideologies that have different unspoken assumptions. I will try to steelman neoreaction as much as I can, despite the fact that I am more sympathetic to the progressivist point of view.
In particular, I am interested in the following question: to what extent do neoreactionary and progressive disagreements stem from judgments that merely differ in degree? (For example, being slightly more or less pessimistic about X, Y, and Z propositions). Or to what extent do neoreactionary and progressive disagreements stem from assumptions that are qualitatively different?
Normative vs. descriptive assumptions
"Normative" statements are "ought" statements, or judgments of value. "Descriptive" statements are "is" statements, or depictions of reality. While neoreaction and progressivism have a lot of differing descriptive assumptions, there is really only one fundamental normative disagreement, which I will address first.
Normative disagreement #1: Progressivism's subjective values vs. Neoreaction's objective[?] values
As I see it, Progressivism says, "Our subjective values are worth pursuing in and of themselves just because it makes us feel good. It does not particularly matter where our values come from. Perhaps we are Cartesian dualists—unmoved movers with free will—who invent our values in an act of existential creation. Or perhaps our values are biological programming—spandrels manufactured by Nature, or as the neoreactionaries personify it, "Gnon." It doesn't matter. In principle, if we could rewire our reward circuits to give us pleasure/fun/novelty/happiness/sadness/tragedy/suffering/whatever we desire* in response to whatever Nature had the automatic (or modified) disposition to offer us, then those good feelings would be just as worthwhile as anything else. (This is why neoreactionaries perceive progressive values as "nihilistic.")
According to this formulation, most LessWrongers, being averse to wireheading in principle, are not full-fledged progressives at this most fundamental level. (Perhaps this explains some of the counter-intuitive overlap between the LessWrong and neoreactionary thoughtsphere....)
[Editorial: In my view, coming to terms with the obvious benefit of wireheading is the ultimate "red pill" to swallow. I am a progressive who would happily wirehead as long as I had concluded beforehand that I had adequately secured its completely automatic perpetuation even in the absence of any further input from me...although an optional override to shut it down and return me to the non-wireheaded state would not be unwelcome, just in case I had miscalculated and found that the system did not attend to my every wish as anticipated.]
*Note that I am aware that our subjective values are complex and that we are "Godshatter." Nevertheless, this does not seem to me to be a fundamental impediment to wireheading. In principle, we should be able to dissect every last little bit of this "Godshatter" and figure out exactly what we want in all of its diversity...and then we can start designing a system of wireheading to give it to us. Is this not what Friendly AI is all about? Doesn't Friendly AI = Wireheading Done "Right"? Alternatively, we could re-wire ourselves to not be Godshatter, and to have a very simple list of things that would make us feel good. I am open to either one. LessWrongers, being neoreactionaries at heart (see below), would insist on maintaining our human complexity, our Godshatter values, and making our wireheading laboriously work around that. Okay, fine. I'll compromise...as long as I get my wireheading in some form. ; )
Neoreaction says, "There is objective value in the principle of "perpetuating biological and/or civilizational complexity" itself*; the best way to perpetuate biological and/or civilizational complexity is to "serve Gnon" (i.e. devote our efforts to fulfilling nature's pre-requisites for perpetuating our biologial and/or civilizational complexity); our subjective values are spandrels manufactured by natural selection/Gnon; insofar as our subjective values motivate us to serve Gnon and thereby ensure the perpetuation of biological and/or civilizational complexity, our subjective values are useful. (For example, natural selection makes sex a subjective value by making it pleasurable, which then motivates us to perpetuate our biological complexity). But, insofar as our subjective values mislead us from serving Gnon (such as by making non-procreative sex still feel good) and jeopardize our biological/civilizational perpetuation, we must sacrifice our subjective values for the objective good of perpetuating our biological/civilizational complexity" (such as by buckling down and having procreative sex even if one would personally rather not enjoy raising kids).
*Note that different NRx thinkers might have different definitions about what counts as biological or civilizational "complexity" worthy of perpetuating...it could be "Western Civilization," "the White Race," "Homo sapiens," "one's own genetic material," "intelligence, whether encoded in human brains or silicon AI," "human complexity/Godshatter," etc. This has led to the so-called "neoreactionary trichotomy"—3 wings of the neoreactionary movement: Christian traditionalists, ethno-nationalists, and techno-commercialists.
Most LessWrongers probably agree with neoreactionaries on this fundamental normative assumption, with the typical objective good of LessWrongers being "human complexity/Godshatter," and thus the "techno-commercialist" wing of neoreaction being the one that typically finds the most interest among LessWrongers.
[Editorial: pesumably, each neoreactionary is choosing his/her objective target of allegiance (such as "Western Civilization") because of the warm fuzzies that the idea elicits in him/herself. Has it ever occurred to neoreactionaries that humans' occasional predilection for being awed by a system bigger than themselves (such as "Western Civilization") and sacrificing for that system is itself a "mere" evolutionary spandrel?]
Now, in an attempt to steelman neoreaction's normative assumption, I would characterize it thus: "In the most ultimate sense, neoreactionaries find the pursuit of subjective values just as worthwhile as progressives do. However, neoreactionaries are aware that human beings are short-sighted creatures with finite discount windows. If we tell ourselves that we should pursue our subjective values, we won't end up pursuing those subjective values in a farsighted way that involves, for example, maintaining a functioning civilization so that people continue to follow laws and don't rob or stab each other. Instead, we will invariably party it up and pursue short-term subjective values to the detriment of our long-term subjective values. So instead of admitting to ourselves that we are really interested in subjective value in the long run, we have to tell ourselves a noble lie that we are actually serving some higher objective purpose in order to motivate our primate brains to stick to what will happen to be good for subjective values in the long run."
Indeed, I have found some neoreactionary writers muse on the problem of wanting to believe in God because it would serve as a unifying and motivating objective good, and lamenting the fact that they cannot bring themselves to do so.
Now, onto the descriptive disagreements....
Descriptive assumption #1: Humanity can master nature (progressivism) vs. Nature will always end up mastering humanity (neoreaction).
Whereas progressives tend to have optimism that humankind can incrementally master the laws of nature (not change them, but master them, as in intelligently work around them, much like how we have worked around but not changed gravitation by inventing airplanes), neoreactionaries have a dour pessimism that humankind under-estimates the extent to which the laws of nature constantly pull our puppet strings. Far from being able to ever master nature, humankind will always be mastered by nature, by nature's command to "race to the bottom" in order to out-reproduce, out-compete one's rivals, even if that means having to sacrifice the nice things in life.
For specific ways in which nature threatens to master humanity unless humanity somehow finds a way to exert tremendous efforts at collective coordination against nature, see Scott Alexander's "Meditations on Moloch."
Most progressives presumably hold out hope that we can collectively coordinate to overcome Moloch. If nature and its incentives threaten humanity with the strongest and most ruthless conquering the weak and charitable, perhaps we create a world government to prevent that. If nature and its incentives drive down wages to subsistence level, perhaps we create a global minimum wage. If humanity is threatened with dysgenic decline, perhaps a democratic world government organizes a eugenics program.
Descriptive assumption #2: On average, people have, or can be trained to have, far-sighted discount functions (progressivism), vs. people typically have short-sighted discount functions (neoreaction).
Part of the progressive assumption about humanity being able to master nature is that ordinary people are rational enough to see the big picture and submit to such controls if they are needed to avoid the disasters of Moloch. Part of the neoreactionary assumption about nature always mastering humanity is that, except for some bright outliers, most people are short-sighted primates who will insist on trading long-term well-being for short-term frills.
Descriptive assumption #3: Culture is a variable mostly dependent on material conditions (progressivism) vs. Culture is an independent variable with respect to material conditions (neoreaction).
Neoreactionaries often claim that life seems so much better in modern times in comparison to, say, 400 years ago, only because of our technological advancement since then has compensated for, and hidden, how our culture has rotted in the meantime. Neoreactionaries argue that, if one could combine our modern technology with, let's say, an absolute monarchy, then life would be so much better. This assumption of being able to mix & match material conditions and political systems, or material conditions and culture, depends on an assumption that culture and social institutions are essentially independent variables. Perhaps with enough will, we can try to make any set of technologies work well with any set of cultural and social institutions.
Progressives, whether they realize it or not, are probably subtly influenced, instead, by the "historical materialist" (AKA Marxist) view of society which argues that certain material conditions and material incentives tend to automatically generate certain cultural and social responses.
For example, to Marx, increased agricultural productivity in the late middle ages and Renaissance due to better agricultural technologies was a pre-requisite for the "Acts of Enclosure" in England, which booted the "surplus" farmers off of the farms and into the cities as propertyless proletarians who would be willing to work for a wage. Likewise, technologies like steam power were pre-requisites for providing an unprecedentedly profitable way of employing these proletarians to make a profit. (Otherwise, the proletarians might have just been left to rot on the street unemployed, with their numbers dwindling in Malthusian fashion). And because there were new avenues for making a profit, the people who stood to gain from chasing these new profit incentives produced new cultural habits and laws that would enable them to pursue these incentives more effectively. One of these new sets of laws was "laissez-faire" economics. Another was liberal democracy.
To a progressive, the proposition that we could, even theoretically, run our modern technological society through an absolute monarchy would probably seem preposterous. It is not even an option. Our modern society is too complex, with too many conflicting interests to reconcile through any system that prohibits the peaceful discovery and negotiation of these varied interests through a democratic process involving "voice." In reality, people are not content with being able only to exercise the "right of exit" from institutions or governments that they don't like. Perhaps the powerless have no choice but to immigrate. But elites have, historically, more often chosen to stand and fight rather than gracefully exit. Hence, feudalism, civil wars brought on by crises of royal succession, Masonic orders, factions, political parties, "special interest groups," and so on.
Progressives would say, "Do you honestly think that you can tame these beasts, when even a dictator like Hitler was just as much beholden to juggling interest groups and power blocs around him as he was the real dictator of events?" Ah, but the neoreactionaries will say, "Hitler's Nazism was still "demotist." It made the mistake of trying to justify itself to the public, if not through elections, then at least implicitly. We won't do that." To which progressives might say, "You might not want to justify yourself to the rabble and to elite power blocs, but they will demand it—and not because they are all infected by some mysterious mental virus called the "Cathedral," but because they see a way to gain an advantage through politics, and in the modern era they have the means and coordination to effectively fight for it."
These are just examples. The take-away point is that, for progressives, culture appears to be more of a dependent variable, not a variable that is independent of material conditions. So, according to progressives, you can't say, "Let's just combine today's technology with absolute monarchy, and voilà!"
Descriptive assumption #4: Western society is currently anabolic/ascendant (progressivism) vs. catabolic/decadent (neoreaction).
Neoreaction often gets caricatured as claiming that "things are getting worse" or "have been getting worse for the past x number of years." This paints a weak straw-man of neoreaction because, on the surface, things seem so much "obviously" better now than ever. However, this isn't quite what neoreactionaries claim.
Neoreactionaries actually claim that Western society is decaying (note the subtle difference). Western society is gradually weakening its ability to reproduce itself. It is, to use a farming metaphor, eating up its seed-corn on present consumption, on insant gratification, which causes things to seem really swell on the surface...for now. However, according to neoreactionaries, conditions might not yet be getting worse on average (although they will point to inner city violence and other signs that conditions already have started to get worse in some places), but Western society's "capital stock" is getting worse, is already dwindling.
Envisioned more broadly, a society's "capital" is not just its money. It is its entire basket of tangible and intangible assets that help it reproduce and expand itself. So a society's "capital" would also include things like its citizens, its birth rates, its habits of harmonious gender relations, its education, its habits of civil propriety, its sustaining myths (such as patriotism or religion), its infrastructure, its environmental health [although NRxers tend to not focus on this], etc.
Another term for "decadence" might be "catabolic collapse." A catabolic collapse is when an organism starts consuming its own muscles, its own seed-corn, if you will, in a last-ditch effort to stay alive. By contrast, an "anabolic" process is one that builds muscle—one that saves up capital, if you will. (Hence, "anabolic" steroids).
Neoreactionaries believe that Western society is currently headed for a "catabolic collapse." (See John Michael Greer, author of "How Civilizations Fall: A Theory of Catabolic Collapse." Oddly enough, John Michael Greer started out 10 years ago as a trendy name in anarcho-primitivist intellectual circles. Now his ideas have been embraced by some neoreactionaries such as Nick Land, which makes me ponder whether anarcho-primitivism is really of the "left" or "right" to begin with...)
When it comes to progressives, most, I think, would argue that Western society is not currently catabolic/decadent. Granted, they would point to some problems with "unsustainability," especially with regards to environmental pollution, resource depletion, and maybe public debt levels (especially worrisome to the libertarian-minded). But on the whole, progressives are still optimistic that these problems can be overcome without rolling back liberal democracy.
Now, let's look at some specific worries that neoreaction has about Western decadence....
Descriptive Assumption #5: Our biggest population threat is overshoot and the attendant resource depletion, environmental pollution, and immiseration of living standards (progressivism) vs. Our biggest population threat is a demographic death spiral (neoreaction).
One thing I have noticed when looking at neoreactionary websites is that they are really obsessed with birth rates! They argue that countries with fertility below replacement level are on the road to annihilation. I found this interesting because my first impulse is to feel like this globe is getting too damn crowded.
Perhaps neoreactionaries envision the birth rates to stay below replacement level from here on out—that this is a permanent change. Perhaps they foresee world population following a sort of bell-shaped curve. My naive progressive assumption is that our population is already in a slight overshoot beyond what can be sustained at our current level of technology, and that any present declines in birth rates are probably just enough to bring us into the oscillating plateau of a typical S-shaped popoulation curve, and that better economic prospects could easily reverse the trend. My naive progressive assumption is that raising kids will remain sufficiently fun and interesting to a large enough pool of adults that, given enough of a feeling of economic security, people will happily continue having kids in sufficient numbers to prevent a die-off of Homo sapiens. In other words, most progressives like myself would not see the need to roll back gender norms in Western society at the present time for the sake of popping out more babies.
Perhaps what worries neoreactionaries, though, is not so much the fear of a global planetary baby shortage, but rather a localized baby shortage among Westerners or Whites. Maybe they fear that all babies are not created equal....
Descriptive assumption #6: "Immigrants are OK" (progressivism) vs. "Immigrants will jeopardize Western Civilization/the White Race/intelligent human complexity/etc." (neoreaction)
Progressives say, "It is not a big deal if Western society has to import some immigrants to keep its population topped off. Immigrant cultures will eventually blend with the "nativist" culture. Historically, this has turned out OK, despite xenophobic fears every time that it will end in disaster. The immigrants will mostly assimilate into the nativist culture. The nativist culture will pick up a few new habits from the immigrants (some of them helpful, some of them harmful, but on the balance nothing disastrous). Nor will the immigrants dirty the nativist gene pool with bad genes. As far as we can tell so far, no significant genetic differences in intelligence and/or physical vigor exist between immigrants and non-immigrants."
Neoreactionaries say, "It is a very big deal if Western society has to import some immigrants to keep its population topped off. Immigrant cultures will not assimilate with the nativist culture. Immigrant cultures will end up imparting a net influene of bad habits on the native culture. Civil decency will be eroded. Crime and societal dysfunction will increase. The native gene pool will also be dirtied with lower-intelligence immigrant genes. (And the only reason we can't see this is because the progressive Establishment AKA the "Cathedral" has systematically distorted the research and discourse around IQ). At worst, Western cities will act as "IQ Shredders." Any intelligent immigrants who seize economic opportunities in wealthy Western cities will see their fertility rates plummet, and the idiots will inherit the Earth à la the movie "Idiocracy"."
More to come in subsequent parts....
This is just wrong. Neoreaction has had a presence on LessWrong since before it existed; back in the days of Overcoming Bias, Moldbug used to comment under the handle "Mencius." Vladimir_M, Aurini, and sam0345 were reactionary LW users who made their last comments in 2012; Dr. Alexander's "Nutshell" essay was posted in March of 2013. Hell, at one point, Multi got so annoyed that he wrote a post called "I've had it with those dark rumours about our culture rigorously suppressing opinions."
The history of LW and NR is older than Scott's posts on the subject.
The plausible connection between LW and NR is that both have an underlying premise that life can be improved by taking a fairly abstract approach.
There were several active NR posters. They decided LW wasn't where they wanted to hang out, and some of them can be found at More Right..
More specifically, I thought the main connection was (a) Moldbug frequenting OB (b) Mike Anissimov as the transhumanist neoreactionary. Was there more I've missed? (I know lots more of such showed up later.)
LessWrong primes you to suspect social consensus with people are crazy, the world is mad, teaches that you have to actually grapple with difficult stuff in detail instead of grabbing the closest cliche to end the discussion, and then introduces a Really Important Thing that relies on us being able to understand the mechanics of intelligence better than anyone has done before. It's not a long jump to go looking into human intelligence as the best existing model for intelligence we have, and then it turns out you don't need to dig very far into the research on human intelligence to hit stuff only the Dark Enlightenment folk seem to be openly talking about, while the rest of the world seems to be happy with S. J. Gould's final word.
It's certainly possible to come up with explanations -- Moldbug commented on OB; the DE seems fringe due to memetic immune disorders to statements generally accepted as true around LW; LW primes you to suspect social consensus; etc. -- but are explanations necessary?
Not many LWers identified as NRx on the survey, and not many NRx writers post on LW. I would not be surprised if the overlap between LW and, say, conlangers turned out to be about as large as the overlap between LW and NRx.
There is also a non-negligible overlap between NRx and conlangers, which is why I used that example, and also why I don't think there's anything more going on here than "there are only so many Americans who will join groups of people who do complicated things involving words on the internet".
Here's a big one that's sort of up a meta-level from a lot of the descriptive beliefs:
Older societies/cultures are optimized (NR) vs. older societies/cultures are chaotic messes (prog)
NRs expect older structures to be very well adapted to their conditions close to ideal, or at least far better than anything progressives would invent from a blank slate. Progressives tend to see older structures as arising from a very complicated, often Moloch-driven set of interactions that optimizes only very weakly for things like social stability and doesn't optimize at all for, say, most members' happiness. There are separate but related questions about whether history optimized societies for the right things and how effectively it optimized them.
This is essentially summarizable as level of belief in Chesterton's Fence. A neoreactionary thinks the fence must be there for a damn good reason, whereas a progressive figures there are lots of stupid reasons the fence could end up there.
And when we start from the blank slate, NRs expect the right answer to look a lot like traditional societies, whereas progressives believe human cognition should be able to drastically outperform historical evolutionary forces.
An argument I think I've heard from some of the smarter progressives (but I may have built it myself as a steelman) is that older societies/cultures may have been optimized for older conditions, but technological change has far-reaching social consequences that make those optimizations no longer viable.
The typical example seems to be birth control making sex outside marriage viable, but I must have heard it in a different context, since it clearly fails in that one. (STDs. Drug resistance is likely soon.)
No, a sperm cell is very substantially larger than a virus particle. Lambskin condoms have not been shown to be effective at blocking virus transmission.
Citation needed. I don't think that's what Progressivism is about (especially given how the context here is explicitly political). In particular, progressives are not libertarians.
From a normative point of view, there are a LOT of differences between the progressive value system and the neoreactionary value system.
In general, what you describe as progressivism (humanity can master nature, humans have far-sighted discount functions, etc.) is quite different from what I see progressives say and do on the US political arena.
All three projects - liberalism, socialism and progressivism - are related by common commitments that have their origins in Enlightenment political philosophy. Because progressives believe in systemic oppression, they have to alleviate systemic oppression in order to achieve liberty: we won't be truly free until we're free from racism, sexism, etc. They're still committed to value pluralism. All three projects faced the (paradoxical) issue of having to attain state power in order to enforce their vision. Liberal democracy was often created on the back of violent revolution, for example.
Libertarians typically identify with classical liberalism and decry progressivism as statist and oppressive, it's true, but that doesn't mean that progressives aren't committed to liberty and value pluralism on their own terms. They have a different notion of what those things mean, they don't reject them.
Fascinating project you've taken on!
Let me try to add one, though I'm no expert:
Domination is terrible (prog) vs. domination can be eudaimonic (NR) I often see neoreactionaries contend that dominated members of traditional societies were happy, even those progressives would identify as most oppressed. The argument goes roughly that peasants, slaves, battered wives, and so on who accepted their lot in life would mentally adapt and be able to be perfectly happy. Progressivism/liberalism/the Cthedral has either destroyed our capacity to thrive in these arrangements or caused us to dishonestly claim we would hate them.
The standard modern assumption, on the other hand, is that this kind of domination is a horrible thing to inflict on any human, that peasants, slaves and battered wives suffered immensely, and that it's essential to eradicate even the shade of this kind of treatment.
Note that this particular NRx view comes directly from Aristotle, who wrote in "Politics" that some people are slaves by nature and it's better for them to be ruled.
Interesting dichotomy. Yes, I think you may be on to something here.
One way to test this hypothesis would be to locate a place in the world today, or a place and time in history, where the ideas of the "Cathedral" has not / had not penetrated, and give the "oppressed" a chance to state their true opinions in a way where they know that they don't need to censor themselves in front of the master.
For example, if we went back to 1650 in Virginia (surely before any abolitionist sentiment or Cathedralization of that society's discourse...) and found a secret diary of a slave that said, "Oh lawd, I sho' love slavin' fo' da massah evryday," then that would support the neoreactionary hypothesis. On the other hand, many discoveries of secret slave diaries in that context saying, "Bein' slaves is awful bad" would suggest the opposi... (read more)
One old commonality is LW's wariness of conventional democracy, emerging from its singularitarian background. The singularitarian worry is that a society of many wholly self-determining agents will end up in a destructive multipolar trap. Bostrom had already published an argument on these lines back in 2004. SIAI/MIRI has always been different from most of the techno-progressivism milieu it's in with by considering extreme technological autonomy as a very probable future existential risk instead of an important political value to fight for.
The neoreaction connection is pretty clear here. Neoreactionaries denounce democracy as a present-day massive coordination failure instead of a future enabler of existential risk, but they're biting the bullet and openly talking about abandoning democracy for a system that could do the sort of global coordination MIRI presents as its endgame.
I find Neoreaction interesting for several reasons. One, it has roots in the beginnings of Western philosophy, which makes it hard to dismiss as a novelty and fad for geeks who live in their parents' basements and read too much fantasy growing up. Plato and Aristotle differed on the details, but they both agreed that human nature finds its fulfillment in extended families (a condition of undiversity, in other words) who live in small city-states where the population sorts itself into local organic hierarchies and the natural, patriarchal aristocracy that emerges gets to run things.
This puts the modern liberal-progressive intelligentsia in an awkward spot, because educated leftists have to admit that Plato and Aristotle founded Western philosophy. If Plato and Aristotle anticipated today's Neoreactionaries, well, you can't exactly call Neoreaction an unhistorical, ungrounded, fringe view, can you?
Two, I've read a few books lately about the Enlightenment (if you have the attention span, try Jonathan Israel's), which doesn't make me an expert by any means. But I get the impression that the so-called radical branch of the Enlightenment, which historians can trace to a specific social ... (read more)
I'm not sure what "unhistorical" is supposed to mean, here, but you can definitely call it ungrounded and fringe. Fringe is obvious; look around at political philosophers of all stripes, and find as many Neoreactionaries as you can; it will be at most a tiny fraction of the population. Which is exactly what is meant by 'fringe view'.
In terms of claiming ancient views as demonstrating solid grounding for a belief: people long ago believed many things which we know now to be wrong and baseless (given adequate data). Plato and Aristotle themselves inherited from predecessors like Zeno, Thales, and Anaximenes, who all believed things we now know are indisputably wrong. (The paradoxes of impossibility of motion, everything being composed of forms of water, and everything being composed of air, respectively.)
The grounds that Plato and Aristotle had to believe those positions were that their society looked approximately like that, and, to their (probably biased) eyes, looked like it was doing much better than anyone else around. If we look around now, we don't see any society that has that form, and those historical societies that did didn't do well in the long term. The grounding has been lost, and claiming 'this used to be well-grounded' as grounding now doesn't obtain.
Your comment has brought up a possibility that had never occurred to me before: perhaps one of the weaknesses of the anti-philosophes is that they felt obliged to defend their particular brand of traditionalism (Christian traditionalism) and therefore didn't have the cognizance to give the best general defense for traditionalism as such. Basically, the Enlightenment thinkers got to strawman traditionalism as Christian traditionalism, whereas in the least convenient possible world they would have had to argue against the 18th century equivalents of our neoreactionaries—which, even if you don't totally buy into their arguments, you have to at least admit that they would have made for more formidable intellectual opponents than...a Church that was shot through with a recent history of internal divisions (Protestant Reformation, religious wars) and corruption (selling of indulgences, corrupt popes, etc.).
This should be an acceptable hypothesis to the LW population. c.f. "I'm considering getting my facial expressions analysed, so I'll know what I'm thinking".
Thinking about it, one way to describe the difference between Progressives and NRx is how much they trust human reason versus other optimization processes.
Progressives tend to elevate human reason above all else. Notice how Yvain's reaction to Moloch is to flinch in horror and attempt to defeat it by the power of human reason.
NRx (and reactionaries and conservatives) believe that Gnon is frequently better than human reason. Notice that Nyan's reaction is attempt to capture Gnon by analyzing it. Notice also that of the four components of Gnon, the one n... (read more)
To put it mildly, what led up to the shooting is disputed. It would be good to have a visual record rather than deductions.
Which is the point - The pilot programs are recording rather mind-boggling decreases in the number of complaints against the police. It's of course unknowable which fraction of that is "bullshit complaints becoming impossible" and which "Police who are on camera behave better" but it doesn't matter. As a social and political problem, it goes away. That should have positive long term social impacts, especially in neighborhoods where the police are currently little trusted, but that is speculative. The direct effect is certain. And will spread. As other very-high efficiency social/political innovations have before.
Thats how it works - Most social reforms proposed don't do anything and never get off the ground or are repealed. The ones that do become a part of the background of existence. Like having a police force to begin with. Labor laws preventing employers from taking absurd risks with the health and lives of their employees, wages that do more than just barely keep body and soul together and so on and so forth.
Virtually all political solutions have an aspect of technology to them. The doctors in a single-payer health care system don't heal via the laying on of hands and prayer. It doesn't mean making use of that technology in a particular way is not a political decision.
This is a good start. I'd be interested to see what you (or commenters) think a neoreactionary (or progressive) narrative would look like.
The main flaw I see is that your account of progressivism is emic and you seem to be far outside the progressive norm. "If humanity is threatened with dysgenic decline, perhaps a democratic world government organizes a eugenics program." You're missing some very important disgust responses, comrade! And is wireheading really a core principle of progressivism?
That whole normative disagreement seems to be the wr... (read more)
Well written essay - I realise what I've written below seems a little critical, but that's because I'd rather discuss the bits I dont agree with.... (read more)
A few ironically contradictory things just struck me about these topics:
1) If you want to be in a patriarchal relationship, then the most politically correct way to describe this is to say its a D/s kink thing. Helps if there's actual spanking involved. Actually, I think it is accurate to say that among my peer goup, traditional relationships would be regarded as a kink.
2) Being pro-arranged marriages isn't PC because feminism, but being anti-arranged marriages isn't PC because you are being intolerant of Indian culture.
There is in fact a significant overlap between "game" and BDSM, the latter not merely in the "kinky bedroom games" sense, but as an ideology about what constitutes natural and proper relations between men and women. For example, the well-known Roissy blogger takes his pseudonym from "The Story of O", whose action (ho ho) largely takes place at a chateau near the French town of Roissy. Back when his blog was called "Roissy in D.C" (paralleling the full name of the real town, Roissy-en-France) the masthead picture was a still from the film of the book. And surely the least important aspect of John Norman's notorious Gor novels is the overt BDSM activities.
While I can't speak from personal experience (I'm neither a woman, nor did I have plenty of sexual partners to compare with) this doesn't strike me as true based on conversations I had about the subject.
First of all, I applaud your courage!
Not so strange when you take into account they appeal to the same intellectual hipster personality.... (read more)
As far as I can tell, people with low time preference didn't die out in the past, when welfare states were smaller (when they existed at all). Which suggests to me that the NRx approach wouldn't achieve the goal set by its proponents.
Actually no. The organised political left is not wanting to communicate with neoreactionists. Neoreactionists are not even on the radar of most left wing political thinkers.
The whole... (read more)
I suspect that the neo-reactionary conception of "progressivism" is outgroup homogeneity bias at work.
Horseshoe theory: as you go towards the extreme ends of the political spectrum, positions become more similar to each other rather than to mainstream positions. It may not be literaly true in all cases, but it does seem to be a valuable heuristic, North Korea is the most obvious example.
As for SJWs vs NRs, SJWs are often accused of being misandrists and anti-white racists, while NRs are, more or less overtly, male supremacists and white supremacists.
It could be argued that these are both instances of tribalism, although in the SJWs case there is usually also some degree of counter-signalling, since most of them are white and perhaps half of them are male.
Futhermore, both movements are essentially totalitarian, as they seek to police aspects of people's lives which are considered to be outside government jurisdiction under classical liberalism (e.g., public expression, sexual and romantic life, and, to some extent, private contracts and hiring practices).
Oh, almost forgot: "Patriarchy/Rape culture" vs. "the Cathedral", or, how to explain away the fact that the world hasn't already adopted our obviously saner and morally superior ideology by assuming that they must all be infected by some sort of vague, unfalsifiable, memetic virus we just made up.
"The Cathedral", according to Moldbug, is those high-status industries and positions which shape public opinion and public policy - roughly, the respectable press (i.e. not the National Enquirer), Hollywood, the Ivy League, Southern Poverty Law Center, etc. It's not a way of explaining away anything; it's an attribution of blame for how present public opinion has turned out, combined with an assertion that these information organs form a natural group (left). Somewhere between Moldbug's rants about how the big universities should be torn down and their grounds sown with salt and their professors forbidden to teach ever again, there are some statements with a bit more gravitas.
Falsifiable assertion: The New York Times and publications like it will report on (for example) the SPLC's assertions with a tone of "and we should do as the SPLC says", but will report on (for example) the Pope's assertions and the Vatican with a tone of "and isn't it strange how Catholics believe such funny things?" (Unstated premise creating relevancy: The NYT has higher status than Fox News. General form: Left-wing media outlets have higher status, and closer ties to high-stat... (read more)
The term approximately as we know it was used by Catholics in the 19th Century, coined in the 1840s by Jesuit priest Luigi Taparelli. (How we got from there to Tumblr is an interesting journey but an approximately continuous one.)
I am really torn between wanting to downvote this as having no place in LW and going against the politics-talk-taboo, and wanting to upvote it for being a clear, fair and to the point summary of ideological differences I find fascinating.
This forum needs to find a way to talk about politics with a cool head. This post is a good example of how to do so.
I think the central question here is, simply put, to what extent should we allow ourselves to participate in politics. Seeing as we are already participating in group discussion, let's assume a political dimension to our dialogue exists with or without our explicit agreement on the subject.
That having been said, I applaud the author for summarizing so many topics of political debate associated with the neoreactionary school. I feel like this conversation has been derailed to some extent by questions of whether the author has represented his sources accurat... (read more)
I don't know enough about neoreaction to say whether your descriptions are accurate, but I can definitively say that to the extent "progressivism" cuts political reality at its joints at all (it mostly doesn't), everything in this post is a massive strawman of "progressivism".
Worried about "white extinction"? Stop worrying - more people are signing up to be white than ever before!
A century ago I would not have been 'white' - I'd be hopelessly ethnic.
Half-Italian-half-Polish with a dash of ashkenazi jewish five generations back? Waaaaay down in the caste system of even 1930. Nowadays? Just another white guy.
Well, it's perfectly obvious that as soon as convenient and cheap birth control becomes widely available, then many people will not have children. This reduces the birthrate. HOWEVER, the people that do have children will have been, on average, self-selected. And one thing you can be sure of, they will be over-represented in the psychological category of "People who really like kids"
That being the case, one has to assume that all our descendents, ultimately, will be extremely philoprogenic. Because all the people that deliberately don'... (read more)
I seem to recall defending monarchy back in '12:
The point of reaction is thus:
Conservatism and liberalism are each spectrums of political ideas: conservatism is based on correspondence to the logic underlying reality, liberalism is based on projection of the logic of the human mind and its desires.
Thus liberalism clusters all of its ideas around the notion of "equality" where conservatism focuses on consequences; this is why we might draw a line between preference-based ut... (read more)